What is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive identity? That’s a question that’s been bandied about quite a bit. Even offensive coordinator Matt Canada has acknowledged as much. Head coach Mike Tomlin even spun it as having certain advantages in not having a clear identity.
Hall of Fame former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis isn’t quite buying that, though. Hopping on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, he agreed that the team’s problems right now are centered around the offense and that that needs to be addressed this season.
“100 percent I believe that is the case, because when you look at the team, you say, ‘Well, what’s the strength of this team?’, and 90 percent of the NFL, the strength of your football team is gonna be your offense”, he said.
“We look at this team, and they’ve got the pieces to be special. They’ve got a great tight end. They got two wide receivers. They got Najee Harris. They’ve got it all. They got a quarterback”, he went on. “But the question mark is, what type of offense are we? And it’s been a question mark for three years. It’s like, what are you?”.
Do we know? I don’t think so. Then again, I don’t think we know the identity of most offenses that have a rookie at quarterback who wasn’t immediately plugged into the starting lineup. Is a guy like Kenny Pickett a ‘focal-point’ kind of guy, or will they have to focus more on a run-pass balance?
They took the latter approach for much of the second half of the season last year in stark contrast to the first, although that also has to do with other factors, such as actually having leads in games. They are among the league leaders not only in rushing attempts but rushing yards and touchdowns.
After the bye, and minus the first Baltimore Ravens game, Pickett completed 133 of 223 pass attempts for 1,442 yards, a completion percentage under 60, though not by much. He averaged under 6.5 yards per attempt. He threw five touchdowns, although also only one interception.
His raw numbers don’t exactly look great. Yet they went 6-1 in the seven full games he played with multiple game-winning drives. But that includes four wins while scoring 20 or fewer points (mostly fewer).
That’s obviously not sustainable in today’s NFL where the average team gives up 22-24 points per game, on average, over the past five seasons. Yes, perhaps the Steelers need to have a great defense to allow Pickett to succeed. But most champions do, or at least have a defense that complements their offense.
We should know.